Originally written on Baseball Prospectus  |  Last updated 11/9/14
Mlb-astros-pirates

The Weekend Takeaway
In the March 5 BP First Take, I wrote, “On the heels of his first All-Star Game appearance last season, [Andrew McCutchen] has the potential to contend for MVP honors in the near future.” That wasn’t exactly the boldest of predictions, given McCutchen’s talent and career path, and it appears the near future has arrived.

After a relatively slow start, the 25-year-old McCutchen delivered a remarkable .360/.424/.709 May, displaying the tools that earned him a six-year, $51.5 million extension roughly three months earlier. What’s even more impressive, though, is that he has sustained that gaudy pace through 21 games in June.

Through 81 at-bats this month, McCutchen has five homers, five doubles, and two triples, good for a .358/.418/.654 triple slash that ranks 10th among players with at least 50 plate appearances. Joey Votto—perhaps McCutchen’s main rival in the NL MVP race at the moment—is the only player who has produced a higher OPS than the Pirates’ center fielder in both May and June.

Though he went 0-for-4 against Justin Verlander on Sunday, McCutchen powered the Pirates to a series win over the Tigers with a three-run homer on Saturday and a 3-for-4 effort in Friday’s opener. That enabled Pittsburgh to climb to within a game of first-place Cincinnati, and to improve to 38-33 on the year, three games ahead of its 35-36 record through 71 games in 2011.

McCutchen was paid this offseason to emerge as a star, to develop into the face of the Pirates franchise, and to lead the team’s return to contention. So far, he’s a resounding 3-for-3.

What to Watch for on Monday

  • The Indians fell back out of first place with their loss to the Astros on Sunday, and things won’t get any easier for Manny Acta’s squad this week, beginning with a three-game series in the Bronx. Cleveland scored just four runs against the Astros over the weekend, and the offense will now look to bounce back behind leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo, who has hit .295/.357/.506 since moving to the top of the order. Choo has smacked righties around to the tune of a .312/.390/.526 line to date, and he gets a favorable matchup with Hiroki Kuroda toeing the rubber for the Yankees (7:05 p.m. ET).
     
  • After scuffling in April and May, Colby Rasmus has been on fire since June 3, raising his OPS 102 points over the past three weeks. The Blue Jays center fielder has multiple hits in five of his last eight games, including four home runs, the most recent of which was a three-run shot in Saturday’s win. Despite his hot streak, Rasmus continues to be challenged by left-handed pitching, and Red Sox southpaw Felix Doubront will try to cool him off in the series opener (7:10 p.m. ET).
     
  • Stephen Strasburg has won each of his last six starts, and he has recorded double-digit strikeouts in two of his last three. The hard-throwing righty is a perfect 5-0 with a 2.03 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 43 innings on the road this season. He gets the ball in game one of a four-game set at Coors Field tonight (8:40 p.m. ET).
     
  • Three games separate the first-place Dodgers and the second-place Giants in the NL West standings as those two teams kick off a three-game series at AT&T Park. Barry Zito has plummeted back to earth in his last three outings, watching his ERA rise from 2.98 to 4.35 while serving up five home runs and logging a 6-to-8 K/BB over 14 1/3 innings. He’ll attempt to get back on track against a Dodgers offense that has plated just 15 runs in its last seven games (10:15 p.m. ET).

 

MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Robert Griffin III likely to return to Redskins

Izzo criticizes coaches, players after embarrassing loss

Report: Kings, Nets talking Deron Williams trade

Is Rampage Jackson heading back to the UFC?

WATCH: DeSean Jackson mocks Eagles after win

Michael Vick: Jameis Winston is the future of the NFL

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: No NFL team is moving to Los Angeles in 2015

Report: 49ers looking for young, offensive mind as next coach

Sheldon Richardson: I'm on the same level as JJ Watt

Kendrick Perkins: Rajon Rondo wanted out of Boston

Report: Jim Harbaugh being encouraged to take Michigan job

Three quarterbacks who could be traded this offseason

WATCH: Redskins FB gets in Eagles fan's face after TD

WATCH: Utah runs trick play on first offensive play of game

Mick Cronin misses game with unruptured aneurism

Steve Alford: Kentucky is best team I've coached against

Peyton Siva jokes that Rick Pitino is in the mob

WATCH: Montrezl Harrell ejected for throwing punch

UNC wearing Jordan-era throwback uniforms

Brian Kelly: Justin Brent gets 'distracted,' is in my doghouse

Five free agent signings that should happen in 2015

Reporter asks Rajon Rondo awkward question about trade

Video: Swaggy P elbows Steven Adams in throat, gets ejected

Video: Grizzlies buy car for assistant who had his stolen

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

RG3 returning to Redskins?

Tom Izzo hot after bad loss

Kings, Nets talking Deron Williams trade

WATCH: DeSean mocks Eagles

Vick: Winston is the future of the NFL

No NFL team in LA next season?

UNC rocking Jordan-era throwbacks

Reporter asks Rondo awkward question

Three quarterbacks who could be traded this offseason

Jon Lester and the Cubs

Report: NFL players used 'horny juice'

Top 10 worst NBA related commercials of all-time

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.